Ever Thought About Bike Racing?

By Sasha Dyke

February 2022 was pretty tough for me, having got really into training all three disciplines, I was at one of the Wednesday track sessions pushing through the pain of what felt like a small niggle in my back (lessons to learn, don’t do this!), it didn’t end well. Waking up the next morning, I physically couldn’t stand up and proceeded to hobble round at a 90 degree angle for the next week.

The pain, which I found out to be nerve issues, subsided over the next few months but never completely went. I was stuck being unable swim and pretty miserable. *Cue* Courtney Ricketts: “the have a go, do it all kinda racer in the club”, he approached me and slowly but surely started to convince me that I should really get into bike racing and what better way to start than at a Team Time Trial with fellow club mates.

In May 2023, Courtney set up 2 Men’s and 1 Women’s team to take on Thruxton race circuit in a series of team time trials (TTT). I can say for the girls (myself, Jayne, Leki and Anne) training for this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Because we all know there’s nothing better than trying to kill yourself off on a lap of Richmond Park for your fastest time. With guidance provided by the one and only Jonathon Furuya, the girls turned up at Thruxton looking the part and raring to go. After a tough 30 minutes of elbow flicking, shouting timings on the front by Jayne, and burning legs we had come away with our first win in the Novice Women’s category. So where do you spend your newly won cash prize? On the next race being run an hour after of course!

In come the crits….

There are two main types of racing in road cycling. One is the criterium (aka crit) which is usually run on a ready made racing circuit or closed road town centre that lasts between 25 – 50km depending on the level of race. The other one is road racing which you may be more familiar with, these are anything from one day 100km races to the Tour De France run over multiple days… and weeks.

Both crits and road races are categorised into National or Regional level. Alongside this you also have your race category, these are Elite/ 1/ 2/ 3/ 4. Everyone starts off in cat 4 and as you start to gain points by coming in the top 10 or 15 of a race you progress up the categories. British Cycling does a better explanation of this so you can find more on the links I’ve put in below.

Following our win in the TTT, Courtney persuaded us to race in the crit an hour after (you’ll see a theme in this) and in true triathlete style, Jayne had already completed the TTT, a brick run and now stepped into do another race… maniac.

Nonetheless, we all managed to get round unscathed and finish somewhere within the bunch feeling pretty happy with ourselves. This was just the beginning.

After the TTT, there were a number of suggestions from Courtney including to take on some other crit races in Milton Keynes. I was pretty hooked on the whole process very quickly.

My next ‘big’ race came in June 2023 at VIA crit. A small cycling shop in Kings Cross organised a closed road crit race around Coal Drop Yards, for those that have been you’ll know there are some pretty steep steps to the lower ground floor, where for the race the organisers had decided to just place planks of wood on top and send us all down them at 50 kms an hour. What could go wrong? Jayne and I entered the start line where it began to pour with rain and off we went 100m in, to a 90 degree right hander which sent people flying off on the man hole covers. Just staying on your bike was a mission which I wasn’t able to do, coming off behind someone who had crashed in front I jumped back on my bike, handlebars a lot lower down than at the start and chased my way back to the front group. This all ended in a do or die moment with an attack on the last lap into a sharp set of corners before the finish and I came in first across the line. This was a really memorable moment for me having Ful-on Tri club mates and family standing out in the rain for an hour watching and cheering, it was great to bring in a win! And even better, the woman who placed second, I can proudly say now is my team manager, Sarah King!

The rest of the season followed with some more crits and my first road race in September, I was really excited to continue progressing for next year but without a team to support me I knew it could be difficult. I’d been following the Women’s race team London Academy throughout the season and when applications opened to apply, I was quick to get mine in, fingers and toes crossed, I got a call from Sarah the team manager offering me a spot for 2024 and trying to act cool over the phone but jumping with joy I said YES.

2024 so far has been a lot of fun, I had my first bike and shoe fit with our lovely sponsors Cyclefit, I went on a training camp to Calpe in Spain (thoroughly recommend this location for pro cyclist spotting and amazing climbs) and now I’m stuck into racing, having completed my first National B road race in the Proper Northern Series up in Lancaster and coming 2nd at a National B crit, it’s going pretty well. Throughout the rest of the year I’ll be racing a few of the National A road races against the best female riders in the country… wish me luck!

If anyone reading this is thinking hmmm I reckon I could give this bike racing a go, I’d say go for it! The racing is challenging but so rewarding. Unlike triathlon where you are at a consistent hard effort on the bike, in road racing you have to be prepared for hard all out 20 second to a minute efforts, to get in a break away or win a bunch sprint. It really is exhilarating.

And lastly, if you’re interested in following along with my bike racing journey follow me on instagram @sashspinsandgrins, and for those wanting to get involved Courtney has set up a WhatsApp group for bike race suggestions, on here we input upcoming races around London that people can enter! If anyone isn’t too sure and wants a chat, my inbox is always open and I hope to see you on a ride soon!

Useful links:

Race Categories Explanation

Race Points Explanation